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July 21, 2017

Blood Blister #1 (Review)


Blood Blister #1
AfterShock Comics, January 2017
Writer: Phil Hester

Blood Blister is a new horror comic book series from American publisher AfterShock Comics. It is written and co-created by American comic book scribe Phil Hester. The story focuses on a man named Brandon Hull, who is a smooth-talking, sociopathic lawyer who would deceive and defraud anyone if it meant furthering his own career or lining his own pockets.

The story starts with Brandon Hull travelling around the Bible Belt (a term used for areas in the southern and Midwestern U.S. and western Canada where Protestant fundamentalism is common) asking homeowners to participate in a class action lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma for negligence. Hull says the state failed to place proper regulations that would have prevented oil companies from using deep injection wells that eventually leaked toxic waste into the groundwater.

Hull is depicted as negotiating with a man who requires the use of an oxygen tank for normal breathing, while the man’s daughter was depicted as perpetually bedridden and unable to move or speak, having been born with deformities (the man blames it on the hospital giving his daughter too much oxygen when she was born.)

Author Phil Hester pulls a narrative trick in the first few pages of the comic, depicting Hull as awkward and well-meaning (at one point even being drawn as sweating after realizing that he has said words that would be unintentionally offensive to the other parties), and fighting for the side of the common man. But in the succeeding pages, it is revealed that the class action lawsuit against the state is just a distraction. The strategy is to ensure that the injured people will not pursue the corporations that are actually responsible for the environmental damage and consequential health issues.

Mr Hester also shows Hull’s character in his interactions with other people: his dismissive reaction towards a beggar, his derogatory remarks against the small town locals when they are not present, and at one point colluding with his secretary in order to fake an appearance at his son’s baseball game. Mr Hester’s addition of these details prevents “Blood Blister” from being a clichéd cartoonish portrayal of lawyers as slimy and untrustworthy. It also makes a subtle yet important distinction: Brandon Hull is not the stereotypical evil lawyer, but is an evil person who happens to be a legal professional. And given the direction of the story, Hull is going to get his comeuppance soon.

The first issue of this comic is the foundation stone for the larger story. It only functions as an introduction to the protagonist. But this is a horror story with a supernatural bent, where the approach is slow and deliberate. Random characters – even one who is normally incapable of speech – start ranting biblically-inspired verses, including the beggar who warns him that he cannot serve both god and “mammon.” These rants are directed at Hull.

“Mammon” is a word that could either mean material wealth or money, but is also the name given to the devil of covetousness. (“Mammon” features significantly in “The Black Monday Murders”, which we recently reviewed.) There is also the matter of the sinister, and, we suspect, symbolic blister on Hulls’s arm, which is infected but untreated. Hull resorts to just draining it of pus instead of getting it properly treated.

The first issue of “Blood Blister” ends as the horror themes start to surface: Brandon decides to actually visit his son, who is on duty at a school-sponsored haunted house attraction. But upon entering the haunted house, Hull ends up in a nightmarish situation in which he is confronted by hellish versions of people who may have suffered from his past indiscretions.

We recommend “Blood Blister” for fans of horror comics. This first issue starts deliberately slow, but it picks up towards the end. Mr Hester manages to deliver the precise amount of backstory in order to engage readers, without giving too much away. By the last page, there is enough told about Brandon Hull to give you familiarity, but there are still missing pieces to the puzzle and enough room to take the story to interesting places. American horror comics seem to have reached a new level of sophistication recently. This title is a good example of that welcome development.

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